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Construction students help to regenerate city centre

Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust has secured £45,000 from the Coastal Revival Fund to restore a derelict building, with the help of students from Sunderland College.

The Living Classroom project will see over 40 construction students from Sunderland College transforming 170 High Street West in Sunderland city centre.

The derelict building will be brought to life in dramatic style as a new home for Pop Recs CIC, a multi-purpose culture hub that was set up by members of Frankie and the Heartstrings to boost cultural activity in their home city.

The building has been abandoned for over a decade and was close to being lost through neglect. It is hoped that the by bringing the building back to active use again will instigate further restoration of the surrounding area.

Martin Hulse, Trust Manager of Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust, said:

“We are overjoyed to have secured this funding. We have been in discussions with Sunderland College for 12 months in order to secure their involvement and we are delighted at the ability to deliver this skills project.”

The project, which is due to start before the end of the year, is expected to last for between 12 and 18 months. It will involve students from a variety of construction courses at Sunderland College including Carpentry and Joinery, Electrical Installation, Plumbing, and Construction Multi-Skill.

Joanne McManus, Faculty Director for Engineering, Construction and Commercial at Sunderland College, said:

“We were delighted to help with this worthwhile initiative. Our students will gain first-hand experience of working on a busy, commercial site; using their skills and knowledge within the heart of the local community to regenerate our city centre will be extremely rewarding.

“Our students value the opportunity to be involved in live projects and it’s an excellent opportunity for them to showcase their skills.”

The work by Sunderland College students will allow this dilapidated building to be used by Pop Recs for gigs and other cultural activities. The restoration will be a central element of the Heritage Action Zone and will support the new audiences being created through the Sunderland Great Place Scheme, managed by Sunderland Culture.

Dave Harper from Pop Recs CIC, said:

“We’re really pleased to be working with the young people at Sunderland College to complete this project. It really fits in with the ethos of Pop Recs, which has always been to get the community involved in everything we do. We’ve made a great start on getting cultural activity happening in the building and look forward to doing more when the building is complete.”

There was a very high interest in the Coastal Revival Fund, which received 123 bids, totalling just over £5 million. The Trust was gifted three abandoned terraced buildings by Sunderland City Council in February 2018. Historic England then funded urgent works to clear the buildings and make the area safe.

Coastal Communities Minister, Jake Berry MP, said:

“It’s fantastic to be able to kick start the restoration of 25 important sites up and down our Great British coastline.

“From Whitehaven to Weymouth, we’re saving some of the nation’s most cherished coastal heritage assets and landmarks from falling into disrepair. The Coastal Communities Fund also helps regenerate our coastal communities and support them to grow by bringing these sites back to life and making them the focal points of their communities once more.”

For more information about construction courses at Sunderland College visit the next open event, email info@sunderlandcollege.ac.uk or ring 0191 511 6000.

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